Eye in the Sky - The Story of Live Airborne Television Broadcasting by Ed Sharpe - SMECC
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EYES IN THE SKY: Televising LIVE! 
...on the Wings of  Eagles...

Electronic image capturing, reporting and transmission aloft!
©-SMECC and  respective rights holders that have material displayed here.


Ray Forrest

Raymond Forrest (January 7, 1916 – March 11, 1999) was a radio staff announcer for NBC, pioneering TV announcer, host and news broadcaster from the very earliest TV era (pre-WW II) through the 1960s.

He was the on-board announcer for the first airborne telecast, from a U.S. plane flying low over New York City on March 6, 1940, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  Read more on the SMECC Site HERE
March 6, 1940, 
WWII Television Guided Drone Bomb! THE BLOCK SYSTEM. Not really for news reporting but significant in  rugged TV transmitter construction techniques.

(info to be added)


The 1945 Proposal by Arthur C. Clarke for Geostationary Satellite Communications
Not considered seriously at the time it became a reality within 20 years thanks  to Harold Rosen at Hughes Aircraft Company. 

wpe9.jpg (77350 bytes)     eye_in6.gif (795032 bytes) RELAY SYSTEMS - Feb 1945 Clarke first mentions relay systems and this is before his famous  paper.

Clarke privately circulated in 1945 May a proposal titled The Space-Station: Its Radio Applications in six typed manuscripts. The top copy of that is now in the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. It was reprinted in Spaceflight, Vol 10. no 3, March 1968 pp 85-86 and in Ascent to Orbit pp 57-58.

EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL RELAYS (PDF) Can Rocket Stations Give World-wide Radio Coverage? By ARTHUR C. CLARKE  Wireless World pp. 305-308


Feb - July 1945
International Projectionist & Projection Engineering Magazine,
December 1945 (A unique airborne network relay service)
December 1945

This was a conception  "helicopters will be able to report live news" ad.  The plane nose is a real photo but the helicopter and man watching it on TV are  artist renderings. Note the plane has a WWII BLOCK system camera in the nose as used by gilded glider bombs from WWII.


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In these added official RCA press release and photographs, you can see
 the camera gear is being mounted in the plane in the advertisement.



You'll see news in the making-
                         through Television

RCA airborne television will bring you thrilling news events that
 could not otherwise be "covered'' - while they are happening.

Imagine! A helicopter is "covering" the story of a man marooned on a burning building. Sitting at your home television receiver, you will get the same eye-witness view as though you were riding along in the nose of the plane!

To develop equipment compact enough to lit into a plane was a major problem. But RCA- NBC scientists and engineers in cooperation with the U. S. Navy did it-and airborne television became a wartime reality.

This portable equipment has many peacetime uses-and may lead to development of a "walkie-lookie" with which a radio or news reporter might cover a story by television as readily as a news photographer docs now with a camera.

Such progress-making research goes into each and every RCA product-and is your assurance that anything hearing the RCA or RCA Victor emblem is one of the finest instruments of its kind that science has achieved.


A television "eye" in the nose of a plane! Besides covering news events, by plane, automobile or boat, such equipment, developed by RCA and NBC, can make extremely accurate geographical surveys from planes flown by remote control. Moreover, similar television equipment can he used to observe hazardous manufacturing processes from a safe distance.

Radio Corporation of America, Radio City, New York 20 . . . Listen to The RCA Victor Show, Sundays, 4:30 P.M., Eastern Time, over the NBC Network.



Magazine Ad


And additional RCA press release


Billboard Nov 22, 1947



Nov 22, 1947


Newsreel | Operation Pegasus

News report on the first live television filming from the air.


CHANNEL | BBC Television Service

FIRST BROADCAST | 29 September 1950

DURATION | 1 minutes 39 seconds




Television takes to the air in this short news report about the first BBC attempt to film Britain aerially, using a Bristol freighter plane, the Giant Brabazon. The test footage of St Paul's Cathedral in London gives us a glimpse of what was included in the programme, which was aired on 1 October. Read about how this disrupted the television schedules.

Did you know?

The technical difficulties on the test flights included effects of plane vibration on the camera, radio interference from taxis and lorries, and the transmission aerials breaking down or not having enough power. Most of these problems were resolved and the BBC film crew, RAF and Bristol Aeroplane Company felt that they learned a great deal about aerial filming from 'Operation Pegasus'.

More info on Pegasus HERE

Television Goes Flying

The BBC makes its second attempt to broadcast live from the air.


CHANNEL | BBC Television Service

FIRST BROADCAST | 22 August 1955

DURATION | 15 minutes 14 seconds




The first of two experimental broadcasts from a Vickers Varsity in flight over Norfolk. Cameras from the cockpit and the bomb aimer's compartment, supplemented by cameras on the ground, capture the plane taking off and landing, as well as other aircraft, such as a Lincoln, Canberra and Meteor NF12, flying alongside.

Did you know?

The Vickers Varsity weighed 15 tonnes and carried half a ton of equipment on this flight. Power for the camera and sound equipment actually came from the aircraft itself. The Vickers Varsity was designed and produced to train pilots, flight engineers, radio operators, navigators and bomb aimers. The latter were seated in a very large ventral gondola, which contained bomb aiming equipment and a small quantity of training bombs. This is where one of the cameras was positioned.

More info on Pegasus HERE

First Flight

Photo - National Helicopter Service

In the early or mid 1950's, CBS Engineers place a RCA-TK-30 Camera in a Bell Model ??? Helicopter. The cable is probably 100 feet long and would run down to the  camera chain equipment in a remote truck. As long as the truck could reach a point and  cable up to the helicopter the camera cable length afforded  a high perspective for the television viewers. 

Early or mid 1950's?
KTLA TELECOPTER - First  viable Live Helicopter news reporting platform.

Los Angles Helicopter  helicopter changed television news forever.


On July 3, 1958 1958 the first TV news helicopter, KTLA’s Telecopter, debuted in L.A.

Courtesy John Silva



Read More HERE

On July 3, 1958
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by Elliott P. Fagerberg, Consulting Author, Geneva, Switzerland-A report on the addition of a new dimension to telecasting in Europe. (BROADCAST ENGINEERING January 1965)


Helicopters are being used increasingly in several European countries for "live" telecasts of outdoor events. Basically, helicopters provide two important advantages:

They make possible airborne, overhead camera shots, and they provide a support for equipment used to' relay signals from remote cameras on the ground.


Success in using helicopter techniques has been reported by Radio Television Francaise (RTV) in broadcasting the "Tour de France" bicycle race. For these telecasts a helicopter is used both for direct aerial shot and as a relay for signals transmitted from video cameras mounted on motorcycles.

A transistorized image-orthicon camera is used for the airborne pickups. This camera is provided with a synthetic-resin cover for protection from the weather. Closeup pictures are obtained from cameras mounted on motorcycles that follow the racers; equipment aboard the helicopter is used to' relay signals transmitted from the motorcycles. The signals are picked up with two FM receivers tuned to' 492 and 532 me and are retransmitted from the helicopter by two FM transmitters, one operating on 650 me with an output of 5 watts and the other on 780 me with an output of 50 watts. The video signals from the helicopter camera are also transmitted through these units. A conventional radiotelephone system is used for relaying instructions from the helicopter to the motorcycles and a truck-mounted receiving station.

Circularly polarized, printed-circuit receiving antennas are used on the helicopter and the motorcycles. The helicopter antennas are extended and retracted by electric motors.


A similar system has been used by the Radio Televisione Italiana (RAI); a helicopter makes possible coordinated pickups from two cameras mounted an automobiles (Fig. l ) and a third all a motorcycle (Fig. 2). Although RAI anticipates putting a cameraman in the helicopter, the aircraft is now used only as a relay station.

On each of the station wagons is mounted a transistorized camera using a 3/1 image orthicon. A generator driven by the engine of the vehicle is used to charge batteries which in turn power the cameras.

The helicopter and auto transmitters have outputs of 6 watts each. The motorcycle transmitter power is 3 watts. Three receivers with different types of antennas operating in diversity are employed at the receiving truck (Fig. 3). A diagram of the system is shown in Fig. 4.



A system similar to those already described has been used by the Belgian Radio and Television System. During the race, the helicopter flies over the course at an altitude of 900' to WOO'. The video is sent from the motorcycles to the helicopter by .7-watt FM transmitters operating in the 500 me band. Aboard the helicopter is a 50-watt FM transmitter which retransmits the video signals in the 500 me band. Using an omnidirectional antenna (under the aircraft in the cover illustration), the helicopter relay permits constant contact with a fixed ground receiving station within a radius of about 15 miles. The ground station uses a directional antenna with a gain of about 12 db.

Microphonics due to mechanical vibrations of the helicopter proved to be a serious problem in initial tests of the equipment. This was eliminated by shock-mounting the electronic equipment in the helicopter.

Interference was another serious problem. It was produced by signals from other stations operating entirely outside the desired frequency band and by the radiotelephone system aboard the helicopter. The difficulty has been eliminated by inserting band-pass filters in the antenna transmission line.

To give the helicopter pilot maximum freedom in maneuvering his craft while following the races, helicoidal antennas have been installed on the motorcycles and the helicopter. The use of circularly polarized antennas on the motorcycles reduces the effects of interference due to reflected waves at some relative positions of the helicopter and the motorcycles. Belgian TV engineers are convinced that ground based stations for such telecasts should be located in rural areas to minimize the effects of industrial static.


One serious problem remains to be solved. The sync generator in the portable camera does not produce pulses that are satisfactory for good video transmission. It has been the practice to replace this information at the ground relay or the studio by pulses generated locally. The ground-based sync-pulse generator is synchronized with the signal from the helicopter by means of a "slaving" unit. This synchronization has not worked satisfactorily because of the numerous breaks in transmission from the motorcycles to the helicopter. A proposed solution is to use a return transmission channel to "enslave" the sweep of the portable camera to the sync generator at the studio.


Other Countries

The Israel Broadcasting Service has made satisfactory use of a "military-type" transceiver for live telecasts from a helicopter. While being unable for security reasons to disclose details of the cameras used, Israeli radio engineers report that a BBC-type lip microphone has been used effectively to exclude undesired noise.

Live telecasts have not yet been reported in Scandinavia, but in both Sweden and Norway helicopters have been successfully used for filming outside events for TV broadcast. The Swedish Broadcasting Corp. has obtained effective stabilization of the camera by means of a gyroscopic device. Engineers for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corp. have not yet been able to record a running commentary on the film of aerial shots because of noise within the helicopter.

Other Helicopter Uses

A number of European broadcasting organizations report successful use of helicopters for making antenna - pattern measurements. These organizations include the "Deutsch Welle" of Cologne and the Bayerischer Rundfunk of Munich in Germany, the Oesterreicher Rundfunk in Austria, and the Independent Television Authority in Great Britain.

The latter organization has used helicopters for testing new television transmitting antennas. In verifying the effective radiated power directed toward France from Dover, the Authority's engineers were able to determine very accurately the radiation pattern of the antenna mounted on the transmitting mast. Also, power-loss measurements over a very long radio transmission path were carried out with the trans­mitting equipment supported in space by a helicopter.

Thus it can be seen that, although the methods of usage vary from country to country, the helicopter is assuming an increasingly important role in European television broadcasting. .•.


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           Fig. 1. Auto-top camera used in Italy.  Fig. 2. Motorcycle camera uses vidicon.   Fig. 3. Multiple-antenna ground station.




                                                              Fig. 4. Diagram illustrates the use of helicopter-borne equipment for TV relay.





Project JENNY - Welcome to the Blue Eagle Nest

In October 1965, a US Navy aircraft equipped as an airborne broadcast station performed an airborne radio relay broadcast of the World Series over South Vietnam becoming the worlds first operational airborne broadcast station. In February of 1966, television arrived on the scene in South Vietnam and another new page went into the broadcasting history book. TV shows were broadcast on Channel 11 for AFVN (the American Forces Vietnam Network), and on Channel 9 for THVN TV (the official station of the Republic of Vietnam). TV was broadcast from U.S. Navy NC-121J (Super Constellation) aircraft. These aircraft were known as Blue Eagles and operated as Project Jenny.

Read more HERE

October 1965
News copter reports

BM/E JULY. 1982

Not all broadcast vehicles are earthbound,
and the helicopter manufacturers
at NAB bore testimony to the
increasing importance of air power.
The biggest bird at the show was Bell
Helicopter's LongRanger II, seen also...
at last year's NAB. This copter is so
large that its tail had to be removed to
allow it to fit into the booth. A Bell
spokesperson described the Long -
Ranger lI as the smoothest -flying helicopter
Bell makes -a boon when trying
to shoot a news story from aloft. It is capable
of cruising at 130 mph. A large
"ambulance door" allows a stretcher

to fit inside (with seats removed, of
course) if the station wants to provide
some public service during an emergency.
(As a company spokesperson
noted, proper insurance coverage is a
must.) Base price of this top -of- the -line
chopper is $495,000, not including
Sharing the Bell booth was ENG
Helicopter Satellites Ltd. with its
Magic Moment camera mount, seen at
previous NAB shows but now in a new
version that supports up to 50 lbs. The
mount is especially designed to bolt
into helicopters, with aircraft -grade
hardware throughout.
On the small end, Hughes Helicopters
was promoting its 300C ENG helicopter,
a two- seater piston model that
sells in the $200,000 range ($132,000
without electronics). This inexpensive
(as helicopters go) chopper is designed
to make airborne ENG available to a
much larger number of television stations,
Hughes states.
Also stressing cost -effectiveness
was Enstrom Helicopter, which
showed a three -seater piston copter
with a microwave package from Airborne
Microwave Inc. The bird sells for
$1 50,000 and the microwave gear adds
another $73,000. A spokesperson said
that WGN, Chicago, was negotiating a
Microwave package for Enstrom bird has Tayburn and BMS components.
lease for the helicopter on display.
Enstrom will arrange a variety of lease
options for its helicopters, as well as
lease /purchase arrangements and outright
An attention -getter in the parking lot
was the orange Pumpkin Air helicopter,
a Bell JetRanger III. The Dallas -
area company leases helicopters to
stations not yet ready to make the financial
commitment of buying a bird.
Pumpkin Air will also provide pilots if
desired, all with ENG backgrounds,
and will equip the helicopter according
to the customer's request


(From - May 1982 BM/E)

Seventeenth Annual Iris Awards

Markets 11-40: KPNX -TV, Phoenix,
for "Northland: Sky -12 Country," program
executive Robert Allingham
and producer John Bass.

Markets 1 -10: WBZ -TV, Boston, for
"Big Boys Can Cry: The Changing
American Man," program executive
Richard Kurlander and producer
Francine Achbar.
Markets 11-40: KPNX -TV, Phoenix,
for "Northland: Sky -12 Country," program
executive Robert Allingham
and producer John Bass.
Markets 41 -211: KVOS -TV, Bellingham,
for "The 1981 Ski -to -Sea Festival
Race Highlights," program
executive Robert Louis and producer
Lynn Rosen.
Helicopter showdown in Phoenix Arizona! 

The Duel Between KOOL and KTAR  - 

First Strike - KOOL achieves air to ground live news video and audio transmission via hand held microwave transmitter from their XXXXXX Helicopter piloted by ???? and  engineer onboard manning the  transmitter  was  ???

First Practical Live Coverage - KTAR Using the TAYBURN MICROWAVE SYSTEM

First in Arizona to report/fly from an effective hi-speed, maneuverable news platform Jerry Foster set records and  got news to us.  This  used a newly developed Tayburn microwave platform that is reputed to be a spin-off of military technology. At the  station end there was an autotracking antenna system that would  follow Jerry around the  valley (and beyond) as he sped about, this system was the secret of what made the Tayburn system so good.

In Arizona,  KOOL Channel 10 claims a first too.  There had been an experimental  point to point test incorporating  relay transmissions  that grant them a claim to a 'first live from a helicopter',  but these were limited as  they relied on a person holding a microwave  transmitter out the  window of the helicopter pointed down to a fixed  microwave  receiver at the ground... then cabled over to the remote truck that  would retransmit the signal  to the station then to the transmitter site to go out over the airwaves to your house. 

We also can  add that  Bill Close and  Channel 10 news and engineering crew gloated over pulling  this  first off...  just in a very short  time before the  SKY-12 Tayburn system was deployed. 

Did it  10's method work? Yes, a signal  was sent... SO... was KOOL First?  Yes, first signal -  but alas not as practical airborne  news platform. Was it usable? Sorta! If  everything was connected,  aimed properly and you had  time to set it all up... an airborne news report could be set to the station

Jerry Foster is finishing up  his book "EARTH BOUND MISFIT" That will be released at he end of summer.

Many questions will be answered and  facts explored by Jerry's book.  We at SMECC will be putting together not only  more  info on the Tayburn system from the engineering aspects. 

Controversial at times? Indeed! Whether you loved or hated him,  Pilot/Reporter Jerry Foster helped transform the helicopter industry into what it is today. Enjoy this video segment as Foster breaks his silence in a no holds barred interview on "Flying with Chopper Rose" and takes us on another wild ride down memory lane. Ed Sharpe  - Archivist for SMECC

Jerry Foster -  SKY 12


Icon Pilot/Reporter Jerry Foster 
takes us for a wild ride on 
"Flying with Chopper Rose".


If you get this  in email use this link to go to the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp1gSaMiyYw

For Previews of book chapters, interesting stories and  some fun  photos   also check out http://www.sky12.tv/

Ed Sharpe Archivist  for SMECC and Jerry Foster retired KPNX SKY-12 pilot and reporter examine  the Tayburn TNR-202A Airborne news relay system omni-directional antenna mount. 


A flash from the past! -  Ed Sharpe Archivist  for SMECC and Jerry Foster retired KPNX SKY-12 pilot and reporter examine  the Tayburn TNR-202A Airborne news relay system omni-directional antenna mount  from the original sky 12 helicopter over 30 years ago... The dark metal portion  mounted to the landing skid on the bottom of the helicopter and the light colored portion would deploy the omni antenna downwards when the craft was in flight... and hopefully also raise it before landing! In addition,  the skid mount held the 2 Gigahertz  power amplifier rated at 13 watts. -  A twin to this assembly was mounted on the other skid with a deployable omni-directional antenna  for receiving. Looking at the  news ad of the Sky 12 helicopter below you can see 2 omni-directional  antennas and the close up inset photo shows the unit that Ed and Jerry are examining.

In the inset Photo you will notice two can-like  items on  the skid mount. These are forward and  rear facing 2 Gigahertz directional horn antennas. These were used to achieve higher gain back to the Tayburn Auto tracking receive site antenna.






Jerry Foster during the  Chan- 3 Days! 

(watch the  clip - sing the  song!)






U2 Spy Plane  Pilot Francis Gary Powers became an airborne traffic reporter for radio station KGIL Los Angeles. He was then hired by television station KNBC to pilot their new "telecopter," a helicopter equipped with externally mounted 360 degree cameras.

Francis Gary Powers died in 1977 in an accident. He was 48 years old. He had been covering brush fires in Santa Barbara County. As he returned, his helicopter ran out of fuel and crashed in the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area several miles short of Burbank Airport.
KNBC 1977
by United States. National Transportation Safety Board.


July 27, 2007


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